Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport set to reach six million passengers in 2019; 15% average capacity increase among top 10 carriers
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport has experienced impressive growth over the last decade; a trend that is showing no signs of stopping. According to OAG, the airport exceeded the five million passenger barrier in 2017, handling a total of 5.34 million customers. This is up 8.4% versus 2016, and some 137% higher than the 2.38 million passengers it handled in 2009. Along with seeing exceptional traffic growth, the number of aircraft movements jumped from 40,000 in 2009 to a near 60,000 in 2018. The VINCI Group facility is expected to see another successful year, following a record 5.64 million passengers in 2018 – the first quarter of 2019 showed promising signs, with the airport handling in excess of one million passengers, an increase of 4% on Q1 2018.
A decade in review
In 2017, Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport exceeded the 5 million passenger mark by handling 5.34 million travellers, up 3.2% versus the 4.93 million that it processed in 2016. Following the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo in 2009, passenger numbers dropped more than 10% that year, but since then the airport has seen uninterrupted growth for a decade.
A fast upward trend in passenger volumes soon began to show between 2010 and 2016 with passenger numbers doubling in that period. The airport had its most successful year in 2014, reporting a 31% increase in travellers. The airport’s profile continued to grow in December 2018, with the signing of a 25-year concession contract with VINCI Airports, operator of 46 airports in Europe and worldwide including the recently-acquired London Gatwick. Such backing will allow the airport to improve its attractiveness to both business and leisure travellers, with VINCI outlining its intentions to make the facility better-suited to long-haul operations in particular.
Belgrade Airport’s largest player is Air Serbia, with the carrier holding a 54% market share by departing seat capacity. easyJet reported the largest increase in seat-capacity (one-way) with over 20,000 additional seats in 2018, resulting in the LCC’s 52% growth. Wizz Air is an increasingly formidable competitor with over 230,000 seats in 2018, an increase of 11,000 versus 2017. Such growth is not merely confined to one year, with total passenger numbers more than doubling since 2009 and strong double-digit percentage growth since 2015 by some of Belgrade’s top carriers.
Over the past five years, Belgrade’s fastest-growing carriers have contributed to a 21% increase in passenger numbers, with the likes of easyJet more than doubling capacity since 2015. In 2019, capacity is up by an average of 32.3% per carrier compared with 2018, with Aeroflot and easyJet increasing by 33.2% and 70.9% respectively the number of departing seats out of Belgrade this year. While based carrier Air Serbia has seen overall capacity relatively flat with 0.9% five-year average annual growth, Aeroflot, easyJet, Lufthansa, Swiss, Qatar Airways and Wizz Air all see 5Y average growth figures exceeding 5%.
Belgrade Airport network development shake-up
Air Serbia has been cutting routes and frequencies since 2015, but decided to reverse that trend this year, through the introduction of 21 new routes. The diversification of Belgrade’s route network has been fuelled by newer entrants Wizz Air and easyJet expanding capacity at the airport – a competitive threat which incumbent Air Serbia will no doubt have to respond to in the coming years. Belgrade’s current busiest route is to Zurich with just under 250,000 overall seats. The popularity of this route has meant that Air Serbia and SWISS have between them added five additional weekly frequencies in 2019 versus 2018. London Heathrow has also been a key market for the carrier, particularly since stakeholder Etihad handed over unused Heathrow slots less than a month after Jet Airways ceased operations earlier this year. Regardless of this, however, Belgrade Airport will continue to benefit in the future from both FSCs and LCCs, as shown by the strong capacity growth discussed above.
Through significant network expansion by incumbent Air Serbia, as well as capacity increases from carriers including Qatar Airways and Lufthansa, Belgrade aims to cement its position as one of Europe’s fastest-growing hubs, alongside strong O&D growth from LCCs easyJet and Wizz Air. With additional routes in 2019, including Barcelona, Cairo, Helsinki, Krasnodar, Kiev, Madrid and Rijeka to add to its growing portfolio, Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is set for a bright future.